Asael Shabo, who survived a terror attack two decades ago in which his mother and three siblings were killed, will be granted the honor of lighting a torch at the official state Independence Day ceremony next month.
Shabo was nine-years-old when he was shot and seriously hurt in the June 20, 2002, attack in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, losing part of his right leg.
“I was surprised. I was in the middle of changing the diaper of my three-week-old newborn,” Shabo, who now lives in the central city of Ramat Gan, told Channel 12 news on Thursday.
“It’s very exciting. Since I was told I’m euphoric, in a bit of shock, I’m not quite digesting it yet.”
Lighting a torch on Independence Day is considered one of the highest honors in the state and is awarded to a select few each year.
“I am an amputee on my right leg, and following the injury in which my three brothers and my mother were also killed, I took up sports for rehabilitation,” Shabo said.
“Once I realized that I really like it and that it gives me a lot of strength, I made sport a very big part of my life. I was a professional swimmer for eight years, and I have been playing wheelchair basketball for 11 years,” he added.
Shabo said he takes the memory of the terror attack with him everywhere.
“I have no choice. Every time I take the crutches or the prosthetic leg, this event is with me. It goes with me to every game. Every tournament in which I represent the country, I first say, ‘Mom, this is for you,'” he told the network.
“It is a great source of pride for me to be a representative of the survivors of terror” at the ceremony, he said.
Shabo will join 11 others who will be lighting torches, including the commander of the Yamam police counter-terrorism unit, who will reportedly show up in disguise.
The ceremony, marking Israel’s 74th Independence Day, is slated to take place on May 4.
Culture and Sport Minister Chili Tropper announced Wednesday that the central Independence Day ceremony will not include a fireworks display, due to concerns over the impact they have on military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The ceremony will emphasize the common good,” Tropper said, declaring that “the torch-lighting ceremony belongs to everyone, in every political situation.”
This year’s festivities will not include an address from the prime minister — a return to the previous custom, which had recently been changed under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will attend, but won’t speak.